Gandhigiri: Munna's experiments with truth
(Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagarpalika Puthaakalaya is Munna's favourite haunt. In times of trouble, this is where he takes refuge. He buries himself in books by Bapu and on Bapu for guidance and help. The guidance bit comes not from the books, but from Bapu himself. First the lights dim, then comes complete darkness, which later is illuminated by a halo, that of Bapu, who comes in a one-piece cloth and a lathi.)
Munna is seated in the middle of a heap of books, Bapu takes the seat across the table.
Munna: You are late today Bapu, I have been waiting for you. I need help, your advice.
Bapu: Advice on what? What have you done that troubles you so much?
Munna: It's something I did 20 years ago. Long before I discovered you and your message of ahimsa. I kept an AK-56 for my safety. Now the court verdict has come, I have to spend three years in jail. I don't know what to do. I feel helpless. I am getting advice from one and all. But yours is the advice I value.
Bapu: What do you want from me Munna? You know I don't deal in guns.
Munna: No Bapu, not at all. A lot of people are talking about getting a pardon for me. A former judge has already written to the President. Many are saying I should go to jail and spend the three years as ordered by the court. What should I do?
Bapu: Munna, it is immaterial what I want you to do or what others want you to do. What matters is what you want to do?
Munna: I repent my actions committed at an age I was immature. An extremely foolish thing to have done. I repent, but I don't know what would be the ideal penance? What will purify me? A prison term? A snan in Ganga? A trek to Amarnath?
Bapu: First of all make up your mind. Do you want a pardon?
Munna: I don't want a pardon, but all these wise men... how can they all be wrong?
Bapu: The true penance is not what the court orders you to do, nor what others ask you to do. True penance is in pain and suffering. Are you ready for that? Are you willing to inflict pain on yourself?
Munna: What would that be? I have read about your fasts -- fasts to repent violence, anger, lust. Should I go on fast?
Bapu: You could, but the call has to come from your heart. Doing what will make you feel pure and clean?
Munna (with a mischievous smile): If living the rest of my life in a beach-side bungalow thousands of miles away from the country I love, in an alien land, sipping beer, eating fish and crab, pains me immensely, will that be true penance Bapu? Most criminals in America I have read about in novels do that.
Bapu (smiles): Have you heard the story of the shishya who burnt himself to death?
Munna doesn't reply.
Bapu: Once upon a time, many many, many, years ago.....
Munna: ...there was a boy
Bapu (smiles): And he was learning the lessons of dharma and karma from a very strict Guru. He was punished for every little fault of his. So much so, he once wished his Guru were dead.
Munna: Phir kya hua?
Bapu: Later he felt very guilty. He asked his Guru, 'If a shishya wished for his teacher's death, how should he be punished?' The Guru said, 'He should be roasted to death in a burning pyre of paddy husk - the most painful death possible.' The shishya dug a pit, entered it, got it covered with husk, and then set fire to it, disregarding all the pleas of his teacher.
Munna (eyes twitching): Very painful indeed. But that's not what I have to do. I never wished for anyone's death.
Bapu: It's entirely up to you.
Munna: I was thinking of doing something similar to you. Satyagraha.
Bapu: Satyagraha, the search for Truth.
Munna: What do you mean by the Truth?
Bapu: The Truth, the ultimate Truth. We all look for it, but not many reach there.
Munna: Did you find it?
Bapu doesn't reply.
Munna: Don't tell me Satyagraha is the ultimate Truth. Don't tell me I search in vain till I die. That will be very painful indeed. Better not search at all.
Bapu: We all search for Truth. It appears in different forms to us.
Bapu: To some, devotion to God is the Truth. There is a story of a farmer who was a bigger devotee of Vishnu than even Narada.
Munna: Bataona Bapu
Bapu: Munna, I have not come here to put you to sleep. Why don't you buy some Amar Chitra Kathas.
Munna sat their sulking.
Bapu: Chalo Munna, bura nahin maante... Vishnu once took Narada to a farmer who lived in poverty, yet always shared his food, whatever little bit he had, with the needy. The farmer, throughout the day, even when he was tilling, even when he was collecting firewood, recited the keerthanas. For him devotion to the Lord was the ultimate Truth.
Munna: Bapu, you speak so well. How do you manage all this philosophy and story telling. You are better than all the swamis and babas we have now.
Bapu took the insult coolly.
Munna: Do you drink? Do you dope? Such clarity in thinking, how do you manage?
This was too much for even Bapu, he stood up.
Munna (pleaded): I was joking Bapu. I know, you drink only goat's milk.
(Silence for a few seconds)
Munna: So what is the Truth? Tell us Bapu, if you know it. Why should we all waste our time searching for it, if you know the answer? It will save a lot of money and effort.
Bapu: Some say life is a mithya, an illusion, and that's the Truth. The pain, the suffering -- it's all for nothing, it's all mithya.
At that moment, Munna saw a streak of light, as bright as a hundred lightnings.
The moment of Truth, the moment life becomes doodh ka doodh and paani ka paani.
Life becomes clear. Crystal clear.
Munna rose from his seat.
"My psychiatrist is right. There is a chemical locha in my head. Bapu is an illusion, Gandhigiri is for real."
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